The Patriots have lost their first playoff game in each of the last two seasons, but Tom Brady says those games have no effect on how the Pats will play this time around.
FOXBORO -- Jamie Collins and the Cleveland Browns are reportedly closing in on a contract that will turn the ex-Pat's place of exile into his long-term place of work.
That's interesting in itself. The Browns must have made it clear to Collins he was getting franchised, otherwise you'd think Collins would want to get out there and test the market for at least a couple of days when free agency rolled around.
It will also be interesting for Collins' former teammate in New England, Dont'a Hightower. While the Patriots aren't going to let the Browns dictate their market and offers when it comes to negotiating with Hightower, Collins' contract will be a useful comp for Hightower.
Whatever Collins gets, Hightower can make the case for a fair amount more. Hightower is the centerpiece of the Patriots defense, a run-stopper, blitzer, leader and tone-setter. From the jersey number (Tedy Bruschi's old number 54) they encouraged him to wear, to selecting him captain, the team and Hightower's teammates have stated how important he is to the club.
Hightower on the open market would be in line for a contract in the $10 million-per-year range, with a total value of around $50 million (using Luke Kuechly, Navarro Bowman, Bobby Wagner and Lawrence Timmons as comparable players). The Patriots can franchise Hightower just as easily as the Browns could have franchised Collins. The sticking point for the player is that he doesn't realize the windfall of guaranteed money that comes with a long-term deal. The injury Sword of Damocles dangles every day.
In other words, Collins' influence on the Patriots isn't done yet.
FOXBORO -- The Patriots had perfect attendance at Friday's practice, meaning they had all 53 players on their active roster present and accounted for at all three practices this week.
Contrast that with how things have gone for the Steelers this week, and there is a stark difference. Star running back Le'Veon Bell missed each of his team's first two on-the-field workouts this week, and several Steelers players are dealing with a bug that seems to have circulated the locker room.
The Patriots could have an interesting game-day roster decision to make should Chris Hogan (thigh), Malcolm Mitchell (knee) and Danny Amendola (ankle) both be healthy enough to play on Sunday. They have not entered a game with five receivers in uniform this season but could potentially dress Mitchell, Amendola, Julian Edelman, Chris Hogan and Michael Floyd.
Other players listed as limited participants in practice this week are Brandon Bolden (knee), Martellus Bennett (knee), Dont'a Hightower (shoulder) and Jabaal Sheard (knee).